I watched the inauguration on Monday, and thought about how desperately our county needs visionary enlightened leadership. As President Obama takes on the next four years, I pray for the safety and flourishing of his young family and for an era of self-control as well as gun control, to help us safeguard our society and ourselves from the violence and strife characteristic of people not at peace with themselves.
Buddha’s renowned Eightfold Noble Path is the world’s oldest extant business plan. His business is happiness, fulfillment, peace, harmony and spiritual enlightenment. It involves “right speech”, “right livelihood”, and “right action”, and wise mindfulness as well as other aspects of how to conduct our lives– at home and at work, including cultivating awareness, living in the now, and loving-kindness and sacred activism cum compassion in action.
What is right livelihood? It is our real work, and true vocation; making a life and not just a living—growing ourselves while growing our career and family– and something we must co-create together in our workplace and community. This includes cultivating mindfulness of how we consume, what, when, where and why, to help steward our planetary and local resources and be healthier and fit spiritually. Mahatma Gandhi, one of my beacons, taught that there is enough on this planet for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed; it is crucial for us to consider putting this simple equation into practice these days, now more than ever.
All that we seek is available within: not just within ourselves but within each other, each relationship, and encounter, each moment. Let’s exploit our own innate natural resources for a change, and give our external pushiness and resources a break. In this fast-paced and stressful era, we must find ways and means to acquire the skills needed to balance tough business decisions in our straitened economy and uncertain times with empathy and compassion. We must balance equanimity and objectivity with compassion and caring to avoid disillusionment and burnout. We are all Buddhas by nature, temporarily obscured by adventitious emotions and illusions; we only have to awaken to that fact. This I believe is our true and first spiritual task.
My advice to leaders in all walks of life is to recognize the interwovenness of us all, not just we humans, and to get involved, become better informed, empathic, engaged and active. Let us not give in to the tyranny of mediocrity and the death of facts. I myself have lived around the world for years, and know that if I knew everything about any subject—which seems all but impossible today– I might very well have a very different opinion about it. This helps mitigate any tendency to dogmatism I might fall prey to. And working in the religious and spiritual field, there’s no shortage of rigidity and fanaticism.
As the female Indian spiritual master Vimala Thakar has written, “We are the weavers of the fabric of modern society. We can weave love, truthfulness and peace or we can weave hatred, mistrust and war. We will have to wear whatever fabric we weave.” Martin Luther King Jr. never forgot that all life is interrelated and that we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. He called this the “beloved community,” which he gradually came to see and understand intuitively as his own congregation and true community.
Remember that life may be but a dream, but now is the time to row your boat. Isn’t it better to co-create a good dream for ourselves and our loved ones rather than a nightmare? Offer your selves, your vessel, and your boat by developing a greater, long-term relationship to life and appreciating one’s meaningful part in the whole. There is no sitting back. Life is precious and tenuous; handle with prayer.
We are all leaders, each in our own ways. Let’s inculcate leadership in the young’uns rather than mere followership. I aspire to be The Altruistic Guardian-Bodhisattva of Children, and lift them all up in my burgundy lama robe. Won’t you join me?